- Did you celebrate more than usual when the ’06 Miami Heat won the championship (even if you were a Mavericks fan)?
- Did you laugh to the point of breathlessness when Shaq offered Kobe a taste test in a freestyle last summer?
- Did your reaction to the Celtics winning the Finals last year in any way resemble Kevin Garnett’s?
- Have you in any sports argument brought up Kobe’s total Finals MVP trophies?
- Have you in ANY sports argument called Kobe a name that he was not exactly “convicted” of in Denver a few years back?
If you answered yes to…really, any of those…welcome. We share a common bond.It’s really easy not to like Kobe. His father was an NBA player, he speaks four languages, he’s extremely rich, his wife is gorgeous, he plays basketball for a living (!!), and he has been extremely successful in just about everything he has touched over the last decade.
But none of that is why it’s easy to not like him. The reason you (or I) find it easy is because…all those things seem to make him come off as much more entitled than the average NBA player.
Think about it. We love Michael Jordan, not just for the 6 rings, the MVPs, the scoring titles, the success—but for the losing years, the 7 seasons of Celtics/Pistons beat downs, the retirement(s), the flu game. We love him because we saw what he had to fight through, and with the mounting challenge of each obstacle he seemed to raise his game even further, and reached each one of his goals.
Kobe came straight out of high school into the league, seemingly entitled to the core, and whether it’s true that he demanded to be a Laker or not, something happened, and he got there. Then he paired with the most dominant big man (ever?) of his generation and found himself in 4 NBA Finals in 5 years, with 3 rings for his efforts. All that came to an end, and a 26-year-old Kobe Bryant was still so immature and ego-driven that he feuded with Shaq over control of the team, eventually forcing the Lakers’ front office to make a choice between the two, and taking the side of their younger, flashier superstar.
Since that moment, Kobe has been trapped in an involuntarily cathartic journey. He has paid/is paying the price for his wishes of basketball autonomy. Losing, bad teammates, a book written by his coach, and the success of the Miami Heat put his early success in perspective, and the feeling of entitlement that seemed prevalent in his demeanor and play seemingly gave way to a by-any-means-necessary hunger for winning his elusive fourth ring.
Last season, as we saw him fall to the Celtics, I believe we were seeing some of the last big chunks of his unflappable confidence armor being chipped away. Kobe came into this season—remember, bad pinkie and all—with a drive to get right back to the top of the West, and the league. This season their team has overcome injuries, crappy guard play, and the self-inflicted sugar overdoses of Lamar Odom to climb through the West and over the bar of expectations we all had for them (something Orlando can also say, but Cleveland can’t).
And now we’re here—Lakers-Magic, seven-game series for it all. Every team I’ve rooted for this season and playoffs is gone, and the two teams I honestly had NO desire to see win a championship remain.
And to be honest…I’m at a crossroads of sorts. For the first time in my life, I just might…be watching a game for KOBE.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a stark difference between rooting for a player and watching for a player, and it’s been a tough compromise for me to even reach the latter.
But at this point, the drama is done. The young, brash, unflappable Kobe Bryant has been replaced with a balder, more Triangle-loving version of himself. And as much as his “act,” the tongue wagging and bizarro attempts at being like or better than Jordan, seem to have eased up (though I still contest that Kobe has been trying to manufacture a “Flu Game” for the last 6 seasons), so has my utter hatred and disgust for everything he is as a basketball player.
(BLECH!!!!!!) That was hard to say!
Maybe if I add something negative at the end it’ll help.
I respect Kobe Bryant, even though his First-Team All-Defense could not be more overrated.
There it goes!
So now that I…respect…him (cough)…here’s how I feel about this series:
Kobe, show me somethin’. SHOW me somethin’. Show ME somethin’. Show me SOMETHIN’.
I don’t love you, I don’t hate you. I don’t like the Lakers, and I don’t really care for the Magic. Right now, I want to see what YOU can do. Your team is young, talented, and finally healthy. You are, albeit tired, at the top of your game on every level, just finishing off the Nuggets with 35 and TEN assists, the most LeBron-like numbers you’ve probably ever put up in your playoff career.
I’m not gonna hold all the fake Jordan crap you’ve pulled against you. I’m not gonna hold your years bickering with Shaq against you either (heck, I think we all know it wasn’t all your fault back then by now anyway). I’m completely wiping the slate clean and giving a great player a chance to write his own legacy. No comparisons to other people, and there’s no disregarding the hardware you pick up from this series. This is the big one.
Realizing that a) I’m nobody important, and b) Kobe will NEVER read this article, I just had to express what’s going on in my head about this series. As a non-Kobe fan, I realize more now than ever that many great players were either overlooked or overhyped in their time. And even as many have overhyped him as a basketball deity, I don’t want to mirror their ridiculousness by disregarding his abilities and his importance as a player.
Instead, I’ll be watching this series to see a legacy cemented. In this series we will find out if Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, or if he is simply one of the greatest scorers. It’s that critical.
Kobe, let’s see it.